If you know me personally or follow our blog, you know that I’m Italian. And we Italians are certainly known for our food, but any pure-blood will tell you it’s not about the mouth-watering, cheesy delicacies we whip up. I mean, every ethnicity has its specialties. What makes Italians different is how we look at food. For us, food is, quite literally, love. It’s how we show our love and how we celebrate our love. When an Italian girl cooks for you, tread delicately and treat the meal with due deference because she has actually given you a piece of her heart. It’s not just a plate of pasta. That meal really says, “I spent a very long time in the kitchen making this for you because I love you, and all I want is for you to enjoy the fruits of my love because it will bring me such joy to know I’ve made you happy.” Our food talks a lot. That’s why meals in Italy are coursed out and take three hours to finish. The food is talking, and that talking is about celebrating the love we have for those gathered around the table.
So take this legacy and add to it motherhood, the most powerful love there is. And in early motherhood, as any new mom who has struggled with breastfeeding can tell you, the guilt that arises if you have trouble nourishing your baby–the one thing your body is designed to do–can be crushing. That was totally me with my firstborn. He was trouble from the start. His latch sucked, I had to use nipple covers for the entirety of our nursing experience, and I suffered from wicked mastitis. Then fast-forward to months four, five, six, seven, and eight where he refused to eat purees and recoiled from anything put in his mouth. My kid just wouldn’t eat, which for an Italian mom, is like a knife to the heart. I couldn’t feed my child. I couldn’t physically show him my love for him.
Mealtime in our house became an absolute dread, ending in tears for us both. By the time Aiden turned 1, I knew something was developmentally wrong, and I got him tested through Early Intervention. As it turned out, Aiden showed signs of Sensory Processing Disorder, in which children have trouble interpreting or responding to information that enters through their senses. Children on this spectrum have trouble with things like loud noises, bright lights, or touching certain textures. Fortunately, Aiden was on the low end of the spectrum of taste sensitivity; some children vomit at the sight of food or scream and hide from it. Through therapy, Aiden worked very hard to overcome his discomfort with food and was released from treatment at age three, but we very much still deal with the aftermath of his sensory issues from infancy. Aiden still only eats a handful of foods; he won’t try new food and he won’t eat familiar food if it doesn’t look exactly the same as what he’s used to at home. He struggles too with loud noises–he just recently stopped being afraid of the blender, and it was a big celebration for us!
So when my daughter turned six months old and sucked the juice from an apple at the apple orchard, I was stunned. I’ve never had a child just…eat…something I offered her. A wave of relief, joy, and sadness came over me all at once. I am of course relieved that she does not seem to be exhibiting the same symptoms Aiden did with textures, and joyful at watching her sweet little face light up with that apple at her lips. But I feel sadness too for how effortless it was, how simple. Because it never got to be that simple for Aiden and me. And though I love Aiden more than my heart can carry, there is a small piece of me that worries he didn’t get to receive my love in a way he should have.
But more than anything, pictures like this make me grateful. Grateful that I have something so small to worry about. Grateful that my children are healthy and thriving. Grateful that I get to hold them and tell them I love them every single day. Grateful that we get to have these moments. Grateful for small things, like apples.